Liver Transplantation for Alcoholic Liver Disease: Survival of Patients Transplanted with Alcoholic Hepatitis Plus Cirrhosis as Compared with Those with Cirrhosis Alone


*Oklahoma Transplantation Institute, Baptist Medical Center of Oklahoma, 3300 Northwest Expressway, Oklahoma City, OK 73112-4481.


From January 1986 through December 1991, a total of 221 patients with alcoholic liver disease received liver transplantation. In 147 of these cases, complete pretransplant histopathologic, demographic, and laboratory data (minimum of CBC, AST, ALT, total bilirubin, albumin, and prothrombin time) were available for review. Forty-five (30%) of the 147 recipients had alcoholic hepatitis plus cirrhosis (AH), whereas 70% had cirrhosis (CIRR) alone. Age and sex were similar in the subgroups, but the patients with CIRR had a greater AST/ALT ratio, longer protime, and lower platelet count (all p < 0.01). Coexistent hepatitis B (4.7%) or hepatitis C (4.1%) was similar in both groups. Current survival is 80% for patients with AH and 84% for those with CIRR (NS). Overall, survivors were younger (43.4 ±1.7 years) than nonsurvivors (53.6 ± 3.2) (p < 0.01), an age influence that was significant in the CIRR group (p <; 0.01) but not in the AH group. Inexplicably, the AST/ALT ratio was greater in AH survivors (1.5 ± 0.2) than it was in nonsurvivors (0.4 ± 0.1) (p < 0.01). In patients with CIRR, the platelet count was greater in survivors (252 ± 29 vs. 86 + 11 ± 109 cells/liter).

The data support the clinical impression that patients with chronic decompensated cirrhosis referred for liver transplantation had more severe complications of their liver disease than did those with AH. Survival in both subgroups was similar, but overall the survivors are nearly a decade younger than the nonsurvivors. Because the diagnosis of AH implies a briefer period of alcohol abstention, it was interesting to note that liver transplantation could be accomplished as successfully with AH as with CIRR.